Classic reggae fans will have much to rejoice about at 2012’s African Caribbean International Festival of Life in Washington Park. This annual reggae and culture celebration typically supplies one or two really big headliners for the five-day fest but thanks to this year’s 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence as well as the festival’s own 20th anniversary, music lovers get a cornucopia of reggae royalty including Rita Marley, the I-Threes, Third World, Beres Hammond, Tony Rebel, and Ken Boothe.
This also marks the first time that the International Reggae & World Music Awards will be held in conjunction with the Festival of Life, after 15 years on the road. The ceremony takes place in Washington Park on July 5, from 6-10 p.m. honoring Bob Marley’s widow and Reggae’s First Lady, Rita Marley, her I-Three band mates Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, crooner Freddie McGregor and rock steady icon Ken Boothe. Legendary dancehall DJ Tony Rebel will emcee the event with an all-star performance of Marley’s “One Love” as the finale.
Other highlights include Beres Hammond, who performs on July 4. Noted for his silky lovers rock vocals and prolific song-writing, Hammond is a mainstay on the reggae charts as Jamaica’s answer to Marvin Gaye. His huge discography of ballads and dancehall hits promise a thrilling show. Reggae super group Third World is sometimes criticized by purists for being a tad too mainstream but the band’s eloquent mix of roots reggae, pop, soul and funk was partly responsible for pushing reggae into the global sphere during the 70s. Together for over 30 years and boasting 10 Grammy nominations, the tight musicianship of the group’s live shows is not to be missed.
Festival of Life, July4-8, Noon-10PM, Washington Park, 55th Street west of Cottage Grove, Tickets $10, $35 for 5-day pass. Call 312-427-0266 for tickets or visit www.martinsinternational.com.
– Rosalind Cummings-Yeates
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